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my rendering of the symbol that of Landa.
does not conflict with
In the tableau the Maya Empire is portrayed by the beba tree with the trunk full of thorns. The trunk is the image of the chain of mountains that traverses the whole country from north to south. There dwelt the masters of the earth, the Volcanoes. They gave it life, power, and strength. This chain is, as it were, its backbone. It terminates at the Isthmus of Darien, to the south. This is why the tree is planted in the character kan, that Landa tells us was the name At the north, the branch of the tree
for south anciently.
extends eastward, that is, to the right of the trunk. This
branch, the peninsula of Yucatan, is
represented by this
a slight difference in
placed in the verti
position, against the
trunk of the tree, by which the author has designated the whole country, calling it u Ma yach, the "land of the shoot,' theland of the vérêtrum," from the name of the peninsula that seems to have been the seat of the government of the Maya Empire.
The motive for the slight change in the drawing is easily explained. The peninsula jutting out into the sea from the mainland, as a shoot, a branch from the trunk of the tree, is indicated by the representation of a yach, a vérê
the base of which rests on the sign of land
or also of a shoot, projecting beyond two
of two basins of water-that is, of the and the Caribbean Sea-that are on each side of it. The whole hieroglyph, name of the peninsula, reads therefore
1 Landa, Las Cosas de Yucatan, chap. xxxiv., p. 206.
u-Mayach, the place of the ancestor's vérêtrum, or of the shoot of the tree.
These two imix differ somewhat in shape. The imix
is meant to designate the Caribbean Sea, the eastern
part of which being opened to the waves of the ocean
is indicated by the wavy line Mˇˇˇ, emblem of water. this instance it may also denote the mountains in the islands, that close it, as it were, toward the rising sun. The other imix stands for the Gulf of Mexico, a mediterranean sea, completely land-locked, with a small entrance formed by the peninsula of Florida and that of Yucatan, and commanded by the island of Cuba. It is well to notice that, as has been already said, some of the signs in the horizontal legend are the same as those in the vertical legend, but placed in an inverse position with regard to one another. This is as it should naturally be. Of course, the particular names of the various localities in the country are somewhat different, and the signs indicating their position. with reference to the cardinal points are not the same. The symbol imix, for instance, of the Mexican Gulf is placed in the vertical legend to the left, that is to the west, of the imix image of the Caribbean Sea, as it should certainly be if we look at the map of Central America from the south, when it is apparent that the Gulf of Mexico lies to the westward of the Caribbean Sea. On the other hand, if we enter the country from the north, the Gulf of Mexico will be to the right, and the Caribbean Sea to the left, of the traveller, just as the Maya hierogrammatist placed them in the horizontal legend,
To return to the character in which the foot of the tree is planted. Kan not only means "south," as we have just
seen, but it has many other acceptations-all conveying the idea of might and power. It is a variation of can,
The serpent, with inflated breast, suggested by the contour of the Maya Empire, was adopted as a symbol of the same. Its name became that of the dynasty of the Maya rulers, and their totem. We see it sculptured on the walls of the temples and palaces raised by them. In Mayach, in Egypt, in China, in India, in Peru, and many other places the image of the serpent was the badge of royalty. It formed part of the headdress of the kings; it was embroidered on their royal garments.1 Khan is still the title of the kings of Tartary, Burmah, etc., that of the governors of provinces in Afghanistan, Persia, and other countries in central Asia.
That the tree the Troano MS.
there can be
takes pains to
was also meant by the author of
Beb uaacal (the beb has sprung up) between
luumilob, the seven countries
The sign arable land, kancab. try, among the Mayas, as with the Egyptians; but the former used it also as numerical for five, to which, in this case, must be added the two units O O. So we have seven fertile lands.
is painted red in the original, to indicate the was the symbol of land, coun
The four black dots
66 serpent." This
are the numerical four, and
another ideographic sign for the name of the country-Can, is why it is placed at the foot of the at the top to signify that it is the are juxtaposed to the character 'Wilkinson, Customs and Manners, vol. i., p. 163 (illust.).
tree, like the sign
kan, also, to denote its geographical position. It will be noticed that this sign was omitted in the horizontal legend, as it should be, since kan is the word for "south;" but it has been replaced by ix OO ("north,") which sign has been incorporated with the
that this is the northern part of
that is, of the country.
There remains to be
sidered, in the present
character of the tableau,
to show tree
explained what may be coninstance, the most important since it is the original name
given, in the most remote ages, to that part of the Maya Empire known on our maps as the peninsula of Yucatan. reads, Mayach, the "land just sprung," the "primitive land," the "hard land." The symbol itself is an ideographic representation of the peninsula and its surroundings, as will be shown.
The reason that caused it to be adopted by the learned men of Mayach as symbol for the name of their country is indeed most interesting. It clearly explains its etymology, and also gives us a knowledge of the scope of their scientific attainments among these their perfect understanding of the forces that produced the submersion of many lands, and the upheaval of the peninsula and other places; a thorough acquaintance with the geography of the continent wherein they dwelt, and of the lands adjacent in the ocean; that even of the ill-fated island mentioned by Plato,' its destruction by earthquakes, and the sad doom of its inhabitants that remained, an historical fact, preserved in the annals treasured in the Egyptian temples as well as in those of the Mayas. May we not assume that the identity of traditions indicates that at some epoch, Plato, Dialogues, "Timæus," ii., 517.
more or less remote, intimate relations and communications must have existed between the inhabitants of the valley of the Nile and the peoples dwelling in the "Lands of the West"?
We shall begin the interpretation
with the analysis of the character
of the symbol
that Landa tells
us1 stood, among the Maya writers, either for ma, me, or mo. Some would-be critics among the Americanists, our contemporaries, have accused the bishop of ignorance regarding the writing system of the Mayas, or of incompetency in transmitting to us the true value of this character, simply because he gave it a plurality, or what seems to be a plurality, of meanings. What right, it may be asked, have we to dispute the fact asserted by Bishop Landa, that in his time, among the Mayas, the character and perhaps to me and mo? than any of us for knowing it? Did not the chiefs of the Franciscan Order in Yucatan consider it a prime duty to become thoroughly versed, and have all their missionaries instructed, in the language of the natives to whom they had to preach the gospel, and, after converting them to Christianity, to administer the sacraments of their Church? Were they not scholars, men conversant with grammatical studies? Who but they have reduced to grammatical rules the Maya
was equivalent to ma Had he not better opportunity
Landa, Relacion de las Cosas de Yucatan, ch. xli., p. 322.
'Heinrich Wüttke, Dei enstehung der Schrift, S. 205, quoted and whose opinions are indorsed by Professor Charles Rau, chief of the archaeological division of the National Museum (Smithsonian Institution) at Washington. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, chap. v., No. 331. "The Palenque Tablet in the United States National Museum." Dr. Ed. Seler, Uber die Bedeutung des Zahlzeichens 20 in der Mayaschrift, in Verhandlungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, etc., 1887, S. 237-241. J. J. Vallentini, "The Landa Alphabet a Spanish Fabrication," in Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, April, 1880.